While the idea to explore sociability at the annual conference
existed before the pandemic, the ensuing pandemic "only
reinforced why we should be doing this," said Peter Dobek,
visiting professor of history who is taking the lead in organizing the
conference along with Nathan Kapoor, affiliate professor of history.
"In a lot of ways, socializing is fundamental to what makes us
human," Dobek said.
The onset of the pandemic required people to innovate and change
their modalities of conversation, Dobek said. At the same time, he
said, society's ever-growing reliance on the internet, particularly
social media, has also illuminated some negative consequences.
But even as we are immersed in these contemporary communication
shifts, there is perspective in the long view, he said.
"By looking at this topic across history, we can actually see
how things haven't changed too much," Dobek said. "A lot of
the institutions are the same, and people still socialize in bars,
restaurants and other places."
In fact, the keynote speaker will focus on food as a vehicle for
sociability, specifically the pretzel. Scholar William Woys Weaver's
speech, titled "The Pretzel as Commensality: Breaking Bread and
the Communal Table," will examine the social customs of the
snack, dating back to its European roots.
Dobek said the conference spans many disciplines and a wide array of
speakers, making it an event that appeals both to academics and the
Though the event is free, organizers request that participants
register. Visit the conference's event page to register.